See It or Skip It: The Top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
What is the Eiffel Tower?
Originally nothing but a temporary exhibit for the 1899 World’s Fair, the Eiffel Tower is now an internationally recognized symbol not just of France, but of romance. The initial response to the iconic structure wasn’t so welcoming, though. Upon seeing Gustave Eiffel’s design for the tower, many called it an eyesore and assumed it would be a disaster. More than a century later, it’s the most visited paid monument in the world.
Why am I here?
It’s my second time in Paris, I’m on my own, and I feel a sense of obligation to once again travel to the top of the Eiffel Tower. (I first saw it on a high-school field trip.) I mean, I’m in Paris, right?
What’s It Like to Visit the Top of the Eiffel Tower?
It was probably the most overwhelming part of my trip. Eager to avoid the long queues that tend to snake their way across the square, I opted to hit up the tower first thing in the morning. By the time I was traveling up the tower, the line had grown significantly—if you’re not an early riser, you’re going to be in for quite the wait. There were still a lot of people going up with me, so don’t expect any alone time at the top no matter when you go.
After admiring the architecture of the tower up close from the elevator’s windows, I arrived at the top. The city stretched out for miles and it felt a little strange to have such an unfettered view; Paris doesn’t have the skyscrapers that fill the views from the Empire State Building or Willis Tower. It was a bit gray out, but I could still see the Arc de Triomphe, the Place de la Concorde, and even the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur far in the distance. After a short while, I was ready to head back down.
Skip it. With nearly 25,000 people per day making the trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower, the line is almost always comically long, and even buying tickets in advance won’t necessarily save you a ton of time. The view is breathtaking, but I found it was missing the one thing that makes a view of Paris feel like, well, Paris—the Eiffel Tower. And without any other towering structures around, I felt too high up to see any of the details that make other Paris landmarks special.
I recommend going to the top of Notre Dame Cathedral instead. Getting to the top is half the cost and will give you a view of the Eiffel Tower, as well as the gothic gargoyles, buttresses, and stained-glass windows of the cathedral. This view is overwhelmingly beautiful—and it’s the one I’m still thinking about today.